BLOG: Friday afternoon #PRFest round-up

The final round-up blog post from Friday, 16 June, afternoon session

#1 SEO Home Truths for PR Practitioners

To jump-start our afternoon session, Threepipe’s Jim Hawker delivered some harsh but fair comments that all PR professionals need to hear. The reality of SEO is that this is a $70 billion opportunity that is simply too big to ignore.

What is driving SEO growth?

Given the higher frequency of search users and growing use of non-traditional search engines, these are two major contributing factors to SEO importance. The biggest example of all is Amazon, the king of online product searches.

Why aren’t PR Agencies in SEO?

Whilst 54% of PR agencies are claiming to offer SEO services, the reality is that PR people don’t necessarily make good SEO generators. Instead, they are choosing to focus on other areas, including investing in different growth strategies, opening regional/international offices and valuing creativity over analytics.

IMG_7663SEO vs. PR Agencies

Established SEO agencies are gradually emerging into the PR world, with the ability to offer something slightly different to traditional agency services. Their focus on analytics and data insight enables a technical understanding within SEO campaigns that PR agencies appear to lack.

But wait, all is not lost. SEO agencies do not have the storytelling craft or media relationships to forge link building in the same way as PRs. Instead, PR agencies have been delivering accidental benefit for SEO rather than deliberately by design.

SEO vs. PR Workers

The major differences between an SEO and a PR is predominantly data, with those in SEO happy to be dealing with numbers and stats. Many US (and some London-based) agencies are springing up and are purely focused on independent data analytics as providing the backdrop for media transparency.

Content strategy and planning are assisted by SEO, making it easier to build search and insight trends. This also helps to focus the budget in terms of content creation and learn what content works well on client platforms. Brainstorms become more effective with more data driven insight and trends can be more easily seen to develop. Ultimately these results allow for a more commercially aligned strategy for clients.

What about In-House?

There is a limited degree of SEO engagement with those working in-house. But with SEO agencies and PR agencies arguably competing for the same accounts, what does the view from in-house PR look like?

The truth is, those working in-house need to be coordinating their efforts between the PR and SEO teams. There needs to be more coordination and efficiency when driving content creation.

Making Space for SEO in PR

One small step for SEO, one giant leap for the PR world. We need to step up our SEO engagement to incorporate it more fully into our industry. If you factor in the additional expense of PPC and paid searches, then SEO can be seen as a more long term and cost-effective strategy.

#2 Working with and influencing the Board

Two award-winning senior PR practitioners take to the high stools to discuss how not every boardroom experience needs to be as intense (or traumatic) as Lord Sugar’s. Sarah Pinch and Bridget Aherne chose to interview each other in their session, bouncing off each other with example experiences, feelings and some home truths about why boardroom experiences aren’t always the best.

IMG_7692Influencing the Board

There are many “brilliant and challenging things” about being a senior person advising a board, as you are playing a vital role as a communications professional in helping an organisation make the right decisions.

Facts regarding the higher proportion of women in low end rather than higher end of the industry echoed the importance of Mary Whenman’s advocacy of the need to increase industry diversity at senior levels. (Hyperlink)

Some women already on boards don’t take kindly to new or younger women coming onto boards. This needs to change. Equally, we need to know how to handle the situation.

Boardroom Surprises

People on boards are surprisingly not strategic! There are also differing degrees on professional jealousy experienced by some, with Aherne advising that in this scenario you need to work on yourself and ask others for support, build a strong network and don’t be afraid to ask for help, in order to build your personal resilience. We need to move away from competitive point scoring by creating a proper behavioral environment for the whole team, because a board is and should operate as a team.

When the going gets tough…

Having a great relationship with your own team members is essential but there’s a fine line with knowing them, showing them you care and ensuring you look after their health and well-being, getting the best out of them and being their friend. One day you may have to discipline or even dismiss them. If the lines are blurred then the response will likely be “but I thought we were friends?”

How important are issues of titles?

There was a yes and no response to this question from both women, with differing experiences depending on the organisation.  In some sectors, especially the public sector, titles and whether you do sit on the board, is indicative of seniority and that can be interpreted by some, to be an indication of the scope of your influence and authority.  We heard a split response as some jobs work well regardless of titles whilst others are dependent on progressive organisations.

Advice to aspiring boardroom entrants

Do something else outside of work in a role such as school governor or charity trustee, because having other board experiences running concurrently with your paid career will give you experience to draw upon. Consider this additional experience and training of governance, politics and dealing with different audiences.

Have a voice. Be heard. Your opinions, experiences and advice matter. If you’re not being heard, then you need to find a way to be heard and the value of support from a strong network, to help you, should never be underestimated.

What would you say to yourself?

  • Listen first, don’t go in too fast too soon.
  • Don’t confuse friendship with management. You’re not friends, you’re their boss.
  • Get your armor together for tough meetings – whatever works for you.
  • Allow people to speak, influence the culture of the board for the positive.
  • Support women to have an amplified voice in the board room.

#3 Mental Health and Meaningful PR

Working as an independent digital consultant and being in PR for over 20 years, Paul Sutton discusses how his depression started to affect his work and how he dealt with it.

Mental health in public relations is a serious issue and for someone to give firsthand experience is a privilege for those who heard Paul at PRFest.

IMG_7726The Power of Blog Content

Sutton was first diagnosed with depression 13 years ago when the stress of a marriage breakdown was exacerbated by the poor response from and treatment by his then employer. Some years later, he bravely wrote a blog post focused on storytelling that revealed his depression to the world for the first time. He received an amazing response with great feedback from people who could relate to him, be that friends or complete strangers, and that gave him the confidence to talk more openly about it.

Current state of mental health in PR

In the CIPR’s 2016 state of the profession survey, 30% of PR practitioners classed themselves as ‘somewhat’ unhappy or not happy at all in their current jobs. 12% of those surveyed who changed jobs had chosen to leave PR altogether, whilst 59% of practitioners have been diagnosed with or have experienced some form of mental health issues.

When a third of UK staff persistently turns up to work ill and 57% of PR practitioners feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health in the work place, this suggests there is still a stigma attached to discussing what we might perceive to be a weakness, and perhaps something to be embarrassed about.

Recognising and Re-educating ourselves

PR regularly features as one of the top five most stressful jobs, mainly down to long hours, the demanding nature of clients and always being on call. In our industry, jobs and clients come first and personal lives and circumstances are often treated without the respect they deserve.

As a result, PR practitioners don’t always fully recognise the symptoms of stress or depression. But low motivation, tiredness, exhaustion and finding it difficult to socialise can all negatively impact your work life. And yet PRs are taught not to show weakness for fear that it could affect your career, so presenteeism among those who need a break is a serious issue. We need to re-educate that mindset.

How can we help?

Be proactive, be open and address the mental health issue that is commonplace within the industry. We need to develop a culture that frequently acknowledges mental wellbeing in the workplace to see any positive change. Everyone should be watchful of others and supportive to combat mental ill health in the industry. And organisations can be doing more to help with things like flexible working hours and offering counselling services or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) in the workplace.

Sutton’s key message is “don’t just talk, do something about it”. Once people start acknowledging this issue it will be the start of a road towards improvement, particularly in the PR industry. Remember, it’s the same as if an employee has a physical illness and should be treated as such, but handled carefully in terms of adjusting workloads and sharing the responsibility together.
refully in terms of adjusting workloads and sharing the responsibility together.

#4 Using data and analytics to Inform Strategy

Andrew Bruce Smith, Director at Escherman, was invited back to Scotland after he spoke at the first CIPR Scotland conference PRFest Founder, Laura Sutherland, organised as Chair of the Scotland group back in 2013.

Laura knows how important data is to inform strategy and her work has proved the value. This subject was one of the areas most practitioners cited as ‘unknown territory’, so it made sense to for practitioners to hear from Andrew, who is renowned for his work in this area. Data can come from unusual places and we need to start considering what role we want PR to play in the future.

PR strategy process and the role of data

One of the first questions we ask in the strategic process is WHY we are doing this and WHAT role we want PR to play.

  • Define goals and objectives
  • Audience research
  • Planning
  • Resource allocation
  • Implementation
  • Monitor and evaluate

IMG_7735These organisational goals define the PR goals. When setting these objectives, the HiPPO’s need to align with the PR objectives otherwise that makes PRs job much harder.

Data Issues

Common issues when using data to inform strategy involve confusion with visibility and a lack of “line of sight” to organisational objectives. There is also the issue of no quantitative evidence, instead based on outputs rather than outcomes and impacts. This begs the question; what do measures look like if they are not tangible?

Bigger issues to consider are how we can trust the data. Facebook has overestimated key video metrics for two years, so the data we rely on needs to be more regulated or checked by third party verification examinations.

Truth First

Steer towards data that gives an insight into what’s actually going on! Status People provide free analysis of fake, inactive and good followers on social media platforms. Don’t just accept the numbers or data at face value, especially when small fees can buy you thousands of followers.

Spoiler Alerts

Social media driving traffic to websites doesn’t work. Data has proved this rarely happens, however just because it sends a lower number, doesn’t mean its less important or valuable.

Similarly, BuzzSumo teamed up with Moz to analyse the shares and links of over one million articles in 2015. The results proved there was no correlation between social sharing and linking. They are two completely separate and distinct activities and should be treated differently.

Data & Strategy Summary

Strategy is about what you are going to do but also about what you’re not going to do. Data is about making smarter decisions on strategy. But don’t just rely on output data.

Data-driven PR starts with objective setting, which needs to be specific, measurable and impact orientated. Relying on the obvious data sources would be a mistake. Practitioners need to use data analysis techniques that reflect the reality of modern day media consumption.

#5 What you could and should be PR measuring

Our final speaker at PRFest 2017 was Jerry Ward, Director of Press Data and Director at AMEC. We received our final lesson about how using the wrong data or metric can be detrimental by destroying your credibility.

Sample, Measure and Evaluate

Communications is about changing something, be it attitudes, perceptions or behaviours. Identifying how you can get from A to B by capturing it with any form of data you can actually find is what PR does.

One of the key takeaways in this session was how we should think creatively about what it is that makes the difference between sample and measure. You need to be bold to take on those internally who don’t quite understand the value of these metrics.

2017-06-16 16.54.43The Bad News

We are asked for AVEs in 50% of pitches.

However, just because metadata is possible to attain, doesn’t make it desirable.

This needs to be reset.

What can we do?

To begin, we can put measurement at the start of the planning process. Thinking about what you’re going to measure at the beginning is vital, as by the end it will be too late! Also, measuring outcomes as well as outputs and impacts can be used to inform your outcomes for future success.

It’s time to identify the difference communications has made and be creative so as to find the best solution to help hone PR strategies. Leverage the data already existing within your organisation, as behavioural changes can be tracked alongside increased sales and higher customer satisfaction.

What is available? Website and social media analytics. Sales trends. Consumer polls pre-campaign and post-campaign. The list goes on.

Stay Tuned

An imminent webinar session is coming soon to discuss in greater detail AMEC’s integrated evaluation framework. Keep an eye out in your inbox or tweet @ThePRFest to find how you can get involved.